This fall marks 80 years since Fascist Italy passed the racist laws that reduced Italian Jews to second-class citizens. Overnight, children like my grandparents were barred from attending public schools and many of their parents from performing their jobs. In the following years, almost 8,000 Italians of Jewish descent were killed in the Nazi death camps.
Eight decades later, the Jewish population in Italy has shrunk, but it thrives. There are several Jewish day schools, kosher restaurants, and active synagogues spread all the way from Turin to Naples. Jewish culture and history are also flourishing: Public institutions are paying for a software-assisted translation of the Babylonian Talmud and the annual European Day of Jewish Culture involves the participation of nearly 90 cities across the country. And yet, thousands of Benito Mussolini’s nostalgics still visit the fascist dictator’s burial place to pay homage, and pigs’ heads are left at synagogues before Holocaust Memorial Day.
Enter the new government.